Like last time, it is recommended that you read the story first, if you plan to read this post.
I tossed and turned for a long time in my bed before the setting for this story was finalized in my mind. Tossing and turning was for two reasons. One the style of narration was difficult to decide. Two, there were too many choices of historical figures to pick up. After I decided on it being a diary style narration, the next question was which character to pick up.
This is not history. This is not an attempt to write or re-write the history. This is a fiction around a historical person – Gautam Buddha. But it is not an attempt to write his authentic life history either. Nor is it a judgment on Buddhism. There was an idea to be conveyed. (Again – let me not get into what that idea was. Let me hope that at least some of the readers are able to get that!) And my choice of character could very well have been Jesus Christ, Paighambar, Mahavir or one of the supposed incarnations of Vishnu (especially Rama or Krishna).
Now although, the story is fictional, there is one belief I have about its lead character. That the person is an intellectually enlightened human, not a divine incarnation. So, I had to be able to construct the major incidents of his life in a human fashion.
I started off by considering Rama. But I soon ran into problem. There is so little of history and so much of mythology I have heard about him that I failed to create a human story. Someday, I would like to be able to do that. I hear that this has already been done by other authors. Probably I would satisfy myself with just reading them 🙂 I don’t know. Character of Krishna ran into similar problems. With Paighambar and Christ, I felt very unfamiliar. I would have to do much more reading about them to be able to understand the major incidents of their lives in the first place. Then only a story can begin. That left Mahavira and Buddha. While I have had many Jain friends, it was funny that I felt I knew much less about Mahavira that about Buddha. Was it because of the supposed assimilation of Buddhism into Hinduism in India? Was it just that I have read and heard more stories of Buddha in childhood than that of Mahavira for some reason? Whatever it would have been, finally I settled on Buddha.
I still had to read a bit to refresh the stories and history I read as a kid. In that process, quite naively, I picked up Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse. An English translation was lying in my collection. As many who haven’t read the book might have thought, I too thought it was a book about Buddha. It turned out it wasn’t. It was a fiction based in Buddha’s time, whose lead character is called Siddhartha – for some reason. However, there was a point of intersection there with my story. Hermann Hesse’s Siddhartha realizes that truth can not be taught and everyone has to find his/her own truth. Gautam Buddha of my story also realizes this. I have acknowledged this by having Buddha remember the young man he had met years ago in Jetvana. That young man was Hesse’s Siddhartha, as those who have read that book might have guessed.
So, there is the story. Let’s see what war or peace it generates. May Buddha’s soul rest in peace irrespective of what happens!
After having written these two stories, my restlessness has subsided a bit. So, next story will be a while away, I think. I do have a theme in mind that has been troubling me. But I need to know more about it before I write a story.